What If the Thing You’re Afraid of Is Totally Possible?
One summer day a few decades ago, I was walking through my neighborhood when a giant brown Doberman came running after me.
He didn’t look like he’d stop until he made a meal of me.
I didn’t have a strategy for how to get out of this without getting bitten, mauled, and left for dead. I just chose to face my fear in the moment, the best way I knew how.
I stood as still as a statue. I stared the dog in the eye. It stopped three feet away from me, still barking nonstop. A moment later, I started walking.
The dog barked at me a moment more, then retreated to his yard.
It’s Better to Plan Ahead
I’d probably walked down the same road a hundred times before without incident.
For some reason that day, the dog was off the chain.
You never know what a day may bring. You can’t plan for every possibility. If you want anything to happen by plan instead of by chance, you have to take steps in that direction.
If you drive, you take your life in your hands every time you get behind the wheel. But do you think about it beforehand? Probably not. You figure if you’ve driven this road 10,000 times, the 10,001st won’t be any different.
My son drove to the store the other day to get a drink for his sister. As he sat in traffic in his Honda Civic waiting for someone to make a left turn, a Ford F-350 plowed into the back of his car.
Instantly his life changed.
He tried to get out, but was trapped inside. As he screamed, a man yanked the door open and pulled him out.
The car was totaled.
By God’s grace, he walked away with two bumps on the head and a sore shoulder.
The next day he was back on the road because he knew it was better to face his fear than run from it.
You can plan ahead by deciding what you’ll do when someone cuts you off in traffic. But you can’t plan whether or not it will happen. The only real choice you have is whether you’ll let fear, discomfort, or frustration keep you from doing what you want and need to do.
What if what you’re afraid of couldn’t happen?
I asked this question in the #DareToBe Twitter chat. The host asked, “What question could you ask someone who needs more courage?”
I thought, “What is the opposite of courage?”
Fear, of course.
And what are we most afraid of when we pursue our goals?
We’re afraid of the worst-case scenario.
Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during the Second World War, said this:
When I look back on all these worries, I think of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which never happened.
Churchill also said,
Let our advance worrying become advance thinking and planning.
Just because something bad can happen doesn’t mean it will.
It’s better then, to plan how you’ll handle frustration, disappointment, rejection, and failure than to expect you’ll be defeated by them.
What it Means to Be Fearless
If you want to know what it means to live without fear, you need to know what fear means.
Here’s how the American Heritage Dictionary defines it:
A very unpleasant or disturbing feeling caused by the presence or imminence of danger.
When I gave a speech for the first time, I was afraid I was going to die. I thought the walls would close in on me. I thought everyone would laugh and that I’d have to move 1000 miles away and assume a new identity.
You know how many of those things happened?
But you’d never know that by how much I was sweating.
Death wasn’t an imminent threat. The walls weren’t going to move, no matter what I said. If people laughed, chances are one day they’d forget all about it. And I wouldn’t have to move away because I totally destroyed my reputation.
A lot of what we fear isn’t danger; it’s inconvenience. It’s our imagination wreaking havoc. It’s disappointment turning molehills into mountains. We want things to be perfect; so we forget that good is often more than enough.
If we can frame frustration as disaster, why can’t we see it another way?
What would you do if you knew the worst-case scenario was impossible?
Want to know a secret?
It takes the same amount of imagination to see failure as it does to see success.
My wife and I spent an hour and a half on the phone dreaming of our wedding. We planned it down to the last detail. We weren’t even engaged yet. We’d just been dating a few weeks. It was all just a joke, we said.
Nine months later, that wedding dream came true.
If you can dream it, you can do it.
Years ago, I read something that transformed the way I see conflict. Imagine yourself handling it with power, with ease, and with determination. Then when it inevitably comes, you’ll have already rehearsed your performance in your imagination.
Nobody says you have to experience everything you do in advance.
Tony Robbins says the size of your success is determined by how much frustration and pressure you can endure. This is key because it’s in the moments of greatest pressure that we’re most tempted to give up. The greater your stamina for hard things, the more you can achieve.
Approach life with fearlessness and you’ll free yourself of two crippling shackles — anxiety and worry.
Worry is how you feel when you cave under the weight of trouble. You can’t move. You can’t think straight. The horizon gets darker. And the clouds of doubt start to overwhelm you and kill your courage.
Did you know worry also has another meaning? My dictionary says:
To seize something with the teeth and bite or tear repeatedly.
No wonder worry torments us so much. It’s relentless, like a tornado that grows the more it spins. And if you spend it on something that isn’t even dangerous, you’ll never have the strength to weather the challenges on the road to success.
Anxiety comes when uncertainty seems like an impending catastrophe. It’s like crossing an empty railroad track and wondering whether a train will appear from nowhere and run you over.
The key to getting rid of worry and anxiety is to learn the difference between difficulty and danger.
Solving a math problem can be difficult. Fixing a leaky faucet can be a challenge.
Having someone stick a gun in your ribs can be dangerous.
All these things have happened to me.
If you apply the law of averages, the chance of something dangerous happening is pretty rare. If you’re not going to die, you’re probably facing difficulty. Resolve to push through. Expect something good will happen. Your mind will help you do whatever it takes to get what you expect.
When you face something hard on the way to your goals, act as if it’s just another step on your journey. Thomas Edison did over 10,000 experiments to get what he wanted — an incandescent bulb he could market and sell to homeowners. Did he give up when the going got tough? Nope. He just measured his work by the results he got. If they didn’t measure up, he did something different.
With 10,000 adjustments, he got what he wanted.
He won because he knew the difference between difficulty and danger and acted accordingly.
Most of what you want isn’t impossible. The question is, are you willing to endure any amount of discomfort to get it?
If you are, you’ll have a great story to tell.
Don’t let fear steal your dreams. Act as if you can and more often than not, you will.